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By clicking 1 Click Bid, you are agreeing to buy this item from the seller if you're the winning bidder. Still, I was smart - smarter than most white folks down here want a black man to be - and I got my degree. I started out walking a beat in Algiers, just across the river from the French Quarter, the Vieux Carre. I can’t forget the smell - like gutting time at a Cajun boucherie - the snatches of Voodoo gibberish smeared across the walls in blood. But he didn't tell me where to find the scum that butchered Celie, because something scared him more. Still, as I floated in and out of tortured dreams, I remembered the look in Ti' Joe's eyes.
Despair is like frostbite - at first it just makes everything numb, saves up all the pain like a debt you can't possibly afford to pay. Teddy LeDoux's place faced out on an alley near Bourbon Street; Teddy liked to pretend every weekend was Mardi Gras. Papa Jean's address led me to the other side of the Intracoastal - the swampy, desolate outskirts of an immigrant slum called Archahaie. After one of those juice-heads puts you through a wall, you learn to recognize the look… and to fear it. I stood there, drowning in my own sweat, wondering what the Devil would look like in a dirty black dress. As soon as the nurse flipped on the lights, I started babbling about Voodoo curses and demon arms. I checked out at the end of the week despite Doc Timmons' protests and caught a cab out to Archahaie. I came to with the help of Baron Cimiterre's smelling salts: the slaughterhouse stench of blood and bile and exposed viscera.
I lay there, trembling in the borrowed clothes of a dead man, staring into the tunnel that joins the evil we live in and the evil that lives in us. Find out more about your rights as a buyer - opens in a new window or tab and exceptions - opens in a new window or tab. Contact the seller- opens in a new window or tab and request a postage method to your location.
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No, the Devil buys on the layaway plan: he trades you a few sins for this piece, a cheap vice for that one, damns you by scraps and slivers. Their members were mostly refugees from Haiti and Jamaica, with a sprinkling of local talent from the Bayou. We managed to push the psycho bastards back over the river, but we couldn't take the West Bank away from them.
I'm a man who knows violence, friend - I grew up with it, learned to use it on the football field, fought against it on the streets of Algiers. I walked to the seedy parking lot around the corner, already planning the moves in my head. The owner, Jean Ducheval, wasn't exactly a snitch, but he was one of my best sources of information on the Voodoo gangs. He saw the truth: I was not a cop anymore, and I would do anything to get the scum that butchered Celie. At the end of a dead-end gravel road off of Bourresouse, I found a ramshackle hut that matched Papa Jean's description.
And a heartbeat - a monstrous heartbeat - like a thousand men pounding on the Petro drums….


When she killed the lights the second time, I pinched my eyes shut, tried to swallow the panic. The cabby - a Haitian - looked like his eyes were going to bug out of his head when I told him where to turn. I was just drifting off to sleep when the door of the room exploded off its hinges and slammed against the opposite wall. Something black and tarry spattered across the walls, the floor, the ceiling, like engine sludge. I could see taloned feet, tree-trunk legs, a body covered with hair that wriggled like carrion worms. My sweet Creole princess, chocolate skin wrapped in a gown of milky white, somber face staring down at me from the top of an ebony cliff.
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By the time he holds the pink slip and consigns your sorry ass to Eternal Flame, you don't even know what happened, or how. Made second-team all-American as a sophomore, had the NFL scouts drooling all over themselves.
They spread a crazy fever through the streets, more like cults than gangs: Secte Rouge, Cochon Gris, Vinbrindingue, Bissage. The Voodoo gangs packed a higher caliber of fear than I've ever seen - you could feel it crackle in the air all over Algiers, juicing your nerves.
The stink of the place nearly made me gag - rotting chicken guts, fermented blood, other smells I couldn't name and didn't want to.
The doc said it was a miracle I hadn't bled to death, said it looked like the wound had been cauterized with a blowtorch. I figured it was the mambo's idea of a joke, but I parked across from the place and waited. By the time that grinning piece of shit realized he'd lit the wrong fuse, it was too late for all of us.
It looked like somebody had painted that whole room with the Cochon Gris and used Vixama's gizzard for a brush.
I jerked the Beretta out from under the pillow and pointed it at the doorway, figuring the Gris had found me.
He trades you a few sins for this piece, a cheap vice for that one, damns you by scraps and slivers. Figured I'd go hardship after my junior year, pick up a cool million in signing bonuses, maybe more. God, she was one fine Creole woman - skin as smooth and sweet as milk chocolate, eyes as wet and wide as Lake Pontchartrain. The rest is lost in fog, except for glimpses that sometimes leap out of the darkness and rip another chunk out of my soul before I can kick them back into the shadows.
I also knew he had a punk named Ti' Joe in one of the cages, a street soldier for the Cochon Gris.
Teddy gave me a spare key to his place and fumbled through a few awkward words of sympathy before he made his escape. The midday sun beat down so fierce that it boiled clouds of vapor out of the steamy marsh beyond the graveyard… but that place still made me shiver, friend. It was huge and shapeless and impossibly black - a hole torn out of the daylight straight into the bottom of a Bayou swamp. I slipped out the side exit, tossed the suitcase in the trunk of the Buick, and got out of there as fast as I could. I propped my head on a pillow that smelled like somebody’s old socks and planned my getaway. Something slithered through the doorway where the mambo had been: a featureless blob, black on black. Then that lard-ass hillbilly tackle blind-sides me in the Georgia game, and my knee is gone. I played hard and clean, never touched a payoff… but if the rules got in the way of a good bust, I bent them. They even stirred things up in the Quarter… and the Mayor won't stand for anybody screwing with the tourists. Nothing obvious… but good vice cops develop an instinct for trouble, or they become dead vice cops. A street cop sees so much human ugliness that the outer layer of his skin hardens into this armor-plated shell that shields him from the madness he has to wade through every day.
I'd broken three of his ribs, shattered his right arm in two places, turned that mocking grin into bloody mush. I sat there with my head in my hands, afraid to move… afraid that I would blow away like smoke. I dug around in the trunk of the Buick and pulled out the Beretta hidden in the spare tire.
He was the blackest black man I’ve ever seen, maybe because I always saw him in baggy white pants, a baggy white pullover, and a battered white fedora. Weird symbols littered the walls, along with newspaper photos of ritual gang murders clipped from the Times-Picayune: Mama Lucille’s shrine to mayhem, New Orleans style. I just wanted out of there, just wanted to put some miles between me and Mama Lucille's Voodoo Kitchen.


The muffled glow of street lamps streamed through the curtains, filled the room with ugly shadows.
I had this nightmare vision of my own bloody arm lunging out of the darkness to strangle me, but the place was deserted. A couple of other punks sat behind what looked like an embalming table, counting out stacks of hundred dollar bills from a leather suitcase. The last thing I noticed was the embalming table, the leather suitcase filled with more cash than I would earn in a lifetime. I couldn't go home, couldn't go to Teddy's - I didn't want to go anyplace the cops or the Gris might find me. Mama Lucille stood there, wearing the same dirty black dress, leering at me like a sooty skull.
I stared into a hole chewed through the skin of the world I knew into a shadow world where demons prowl the savage jungles hunting for wayward souls, where dark magic falls from the sky like poisoned rain.
She has a contract with the Secte Rouge to take out the Gris; to take out all the competition, eventually. Ti' Joe had a private cell, because the Voodoo punks scared the shit out of the regular low-lifes.
On the streets they say the Voodoo punks are immune to fear, but I saw terror in Ti' Joe's eyes.
A short, plump mulatto woman with coarse gray hair and a dirty, sweat-stained black dress opened it. I glanced down at the place where I could feel my phantom arm resting on the bed, burning with invisible fire. I tightened my grip on the Beretta and slipped across the street, followed the casket delivery boys through the side entrance.
I drove around until I found a crumbling flophouse between a strip joint and a Cajun diner on Ascon.
What's left will drip down through that black tunnel into the world he sees in nightmares… into a place he doesn't ever want to be.
Maybe there's still time for you to buy it back the same way: with one tiny act of penance at a time. I stuck it in my pocket and steered into the crush of traffic crawling across the bridge into Algiers.
Papa Jean was one of the good guys in Algiers: always helping the ones who needed help the most, trying to keep the kids out of trouble.
A casket that size could probably hold a hundred kilos of junk, maybe more, worth a king's ransom on the streets. I saw every nightmare that had ever devoured my sleep - my private horde of horrors snarling and slobbering at the gates of their unnatural habitat. The Voodoo gangs have some nasty magic of their own, but they never think to use it on a crippled ex-cop who can't do shit. A lot of the boys at the Precinct House bought into it, especially the ones who grew up around the Bayou.
The righteous part of Lucius Freeman - the part that laughed at Teddy's lame jokes, that slid a few bucks to homeless bums instead of busting them, that made sweet love to his sweet woman after a fourteen-hour shift when he was almost too tired to move - that part just spilled out of the wreckage and turned to dust. The stink of him… denim marinated in sweat, like the fur of some sickly animal, wrapped in the ghostly scent of ganja. I couldn't go home - couldn't sleep in that house ever again - so Teddy took me in at his place. They had that crazy, invincible glow you see on a junkie's face when he's dropped some PCP. The crematorium would give the Gris an easy way to dispose of enemies - the parts they didn't eat. If I could waste Vixama - the mastermind behind most of the horror in Algiers - that would be revenge enough. Before they know different, they wind up looking like a spilled vat of bloody gumbo - Mama's special recipe.
New Orleans doesn't just sing, friend: it jitters and jives and wails like a wild animal that can't be caged. That night, I huddled on Teddy's lumpy couch and suffered through nightmares that refused to end… nightmares that would never end. I paid for the room with a twenty, pretended not to notice while the clerk stared at my vacant sleeve. The siren in my head screaming now, but my heart thumping louder, pounding out one frantic thought. The Cochon Gris had stolen everything: my wife and my job, the two things I loved in this world. I felt, I heard the brittle crack of bone, the sharp twang of snapping sinews, the meaty rip of muscle tearing like soggy paper. I figured I'd stop by the house in the morning and pick up my passport, then take a drive out to Moisant and catch a flight to Mexico City. She laughed while it crushed the life out of her, cackled while it plucked off her arms and legs like the wings off a mutant moth. The stolen arm of the loa wrapped me in a tentacle of fire, lifted me above the bed, hurled me across the room.



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